Diet instead of wisdom
At this stage Hamas is acting more responsibly than the Israeli government. Its representatives speak of a new era, of a transition from terror to politics, and of continued opposition to occupation via other means.
Instead of acting a bit more modest in the wake of their failure to predict Hamas' rise to power, Israeli security, terror and policy experts are spending all their time advising Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on how to deal with the movement, whose status among the Palestinian people they did not manage to grasp.
Due to the multiplicity of suggestions and the fact that the elections are approaching, the government is overly active and this bodes ill in the face of current developments. Instead of being patient and examining the way in which the new Palestinian Authority government is shaping up, cabinet ministers are shouting from the rooftops and around the world, radiating panic and a loss of their senses.
It is not realistic to think about separating Hamas rule from the Palestinian people, or about starving government institutions while sending humanitarian assistance directly to the population. The Palestinians chose their leadership democratically, and any such separation is arrogant and has no chance.
The unsuccessful comments by Dov Weissglas - whose position and source of authority in the present government is difficult to understand - regarding the need to put the Palestinian nation on a diet, but not to starve it, symbolizes more than anything the humiliating way in which Israel relates to the Palestinians, which was one of the factors in Hamas' rise to power. It is unnecessary and degrading to recommend a diet to a hungry and unemployed nation, in addition to which Israel is still responsible for preventing hunger in all parts of the West Bank that it controls as an occupying power.
At this stage Hamas is acting more responsibly than the Israeli government. Its representatives speak of a new era, of a transition from terror to politics, of continued opposition to occupation via other means, and of aspirations to a long-term hudna (cease-fire).
The demand that Hamas change its charter is not relevant as long as no political negotiations with the organization are under way. In the absence of a chance to reach a political agreement at this point, both sides must take pragmatic steps that will allow people to lead reasonable and nonviolent lives alongside each other. This would not be capitulation to Hamas, but a realistic and rational view of reality. One can presume that if it will be worthwhile for Hamas to maintain quiet, it will do so, as the entity responsible for the lives of millions of Palestinians who voted for it.
Israel's upcoming elections do not seem to be imparting wisdom or moderation to the party spokespeople who are in competition to find the magic solution to Hamas' rise to power. Perhaps the picture portrayed in the polls - of an Israeli public that has not changed its positions or its voting pattern in the wake of Hamas' triumph - expresses a desire for quiet. And perhaps this collective desire will also seep down to the politicians who are pushing forward with impassioned suggestions and statements.
The government must declare a waiting period in which nothing will change in the agreements between the PA and Israel that were in effect before the elections. The government must wait and examine how the Hamas government will use the money transferred to it, and not expect that the Palestinian nation will change its tune. Any pressure in this direction is liable to cause radicalization and a renewal of violence.